Structural crust is formed from water drop impact. If there is sufficient organic matter on the soil surface, the impact of rain will be lessened and soil structure, microbiology and porosity will be maintained.

It takes time for disrupted soils to become fully active in diverse microbial populations. Organic matter on the soil surface will encourage microbiological activity. Dropped leaves, for example, are ideal mulch over the compost-and-nutrient-mixture we have applied already. On immature or unprotected soils, the rain drops break apart the soil aggregates. These aggregates are formed by the exudates produced by the individual soil biology organisms that then act to adhere particles of soil to one another; when these aggregates have little organic matter in the surrounding or surface soil (e.g., no protection) a structural crust results.

The porosity of soil is, thereby, reliant upon a high level of organic matter and healthy microbiology – the makings of soil aggregates which are THE prevention of erosion.

It is important to leave the soils undisturbed as much as possible (e.g., no raking). The soil biology resides primarily in the top 5 cm of soil; any disturbance, such as raking, disrupts the expansion of a healthy soil foodweb.

A helpful reference sampling soil structure and tillage impact:
http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/soils/soilstructure.pdf

Our region can be classified as “semi-arid”.
http://www.paton.com.au/Research/Horticulture/Pedocare/TheSealingProcessandCrustFormation.pdf

Anyway. Enjoy. Love that soil. Abundance will result. Well, I suppose Abundance always is the result of Love

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Comment by Debby Flickinger on March 25, 2011 at 9:00am

Hello,

I just rented space in a community garden in Pleasant Hill and it has been too rainy to even turn the dirt over, but my husband and I are looking forward to going to CCL Organics in Benecia, for the compost. I was wondering if the park is not organic will my organic plans be messed up by them not using organic ways for gardening?

 

Debby Flickinger

Comment by Jae Koenig on February 13, 2011 at 6:10pm

Hmm, that other comment was truncated.

 

I recommend NOT turning wood mulch into the soil.  Wood requires high nitrogen to decompose and its presence in the depth of soils will rob the nitrogen from nearby plants, especially the large trees who are the primary consumers of nitrogen.  The soil biology will move into the soil from a top dress of compost.  Beneficial fungi will be encouraged by the application of wood mulch (wood flesh NOT bark).  The fungi bring calcium into their bodies and, when released to the soil, structure in the soil is a result.  Calcium and clay have opposite charges; therefore, the addition of calcium to clay is WHAT creates structure and porosity for water and air to penetrate our Contra Costa clay soils.

 

Keep loving that soil.  Jae

Comment by Jae Koenig on February 13, 2011 at 5:31pm

NB please NEVER use plastic as a weed barrier.  The soil cannot breathe and all plants whose roots are below the barrier suffer.  The soil becomes compact and dead.

Comment by Jae Koenig on February 13, 2011 at 5:30pm

It depends upon the weed barrier used.  If a poly fiber barrier, the microbes and water can still permeate.  The mulch will encourage growth of beneficial fungi, as they eat the pieces of wood and whole dry leaves. 

 

One note on weeds.  They tell us a story of the ecological balance of soils.  For example, the awful Centaurea solstitialis (yellow starthistle) is a 'pioneer' species that settles in compacted and recently disrupted soils.  While we do not want this plant to go to seed as it is classified as an invasive species.  However, its tap root is immensely healing to soils.  So, if the weed is observed in soil, it is an indicator of compacted soil.  Removing it is essential; one can then top dress the soil with weed-free mulch.

 

Compost is the most beneficial mulch.  CCL Organics in Benecia makes compost to high standards.  Their composts are 'finished' which means the biology has decomposed all green matter and there are no phytotoxins (residues of the nitrogen cycle) that remain in the compost.  Their process takes compost through a heated process, essential for ensuring the weed seeds and any pathogens are killed.  (NOTE:  a compost pile heats because of the reproductive activity of the bacteria within.  So, if we add a lot of high nitrogen feed stock - fresh cut grass or coffee grounds - it is ESSENTIAL that the internal temperature of the pile be monitored and the pile turned when it reaches 160'F.  If the pile continues to be left unturned, the bacteria will reproduce, using up all available oxygen.  Then, the anaerobic bacteria 'wake up'; these are fine, however, their by product is alcohol which self combusts at 160'F.  Have you heard the story of the compost pile exploding when it is 40'F outside?  Well, that pile was left unturned and it exploded into fire. 

 

EcoMulch recommends mixing the mulch into the top 12" of soil.  Though EcoMulch provides a good product free of construction

Comment by Tina King Neuhausel on February 13, 2011 at 5:00pm
We recently did some landscaping work and I did my best to go organic...brought in a truckload of good organic compost from EcoMulch, used good mulch on top. However, husband insisted that we use a heavy weed barrier...I know the yard will look good because we don't have a lot of time for weeding...BUT, that's not the best way to do organic gardening, is it? I had planned to use the recommendations of Jae Koenig, Patrice Hanlon, and Susan Handjian...add a bunch of mulch and compost each year. The weed barrier means we can't do that now, right? Now what...compost tea?

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